MCFly writer Laurence Menhinick attended the Wednesday June 20th Economy Scrutiny Committee meeting [see brief report here. Full report now delayed to Saturday]. She participated in the workshop on “Green Skills and Jobs.” If you were also in the workshop, please add your comments. If you were in another workshop, please send us a report (it doesn’t have to be as amazing as this one; you’ll get the same pay that Laurence did…)
Chaired by Cllr Suzanne Richards.
About 20 people stayed behind to this workshop, including Cllrs Hackett, Karney, Pritchard, Shone, Smitheman and Walters. Also Angela Harrington, Head of Regeneration and Eleanor Fort (Scrutiny support officer).
We were given a joint presentation from James Farr, Head of Employment at New Economy and Anne Parkes, from the Association of Greater Manchester Authorities Green Deal, concentrating on the skills and jobs specific to environmental sustainability and greening of skills across a range of sectors. The presentation was balanced between the job and training potentials for the GM area and the possible hurdles:
• “green jobs” cover a wide range of sectors, and already employs 8100 people across the GM area, including strong low-carbon sub-sectors
• The current estimates expect a 29% increase in green jobs, especially around renewables and low-carbon, but green job growth will depend on legislative, financial and market support
• There will also be a significant “greening” of existing jobs, to include low-carbon and sustainable practices, for instance in procurement, construction etc in which case re-skilling of existing staff may not create new jobs.
• However there are major hurdles relating to the uncertainties of demand levels: matching training/ apprenticeships/ re-skilling in GM will depend on a strong, definite and long-term demand on the job market in that sector (1)
• The Green Deal (2) will be a good catalyst for new skills and qualifications training and immediate employability- with a projected £1.08bn capital investment by 2015 ( installers, supply chain jobs support, assessors) it will also boost local existing businesses.
There followed a very useful question-comments session where everyone had a say and put their concerns and views forwards. I was very impressed with the level of positive interest from council members, but this was about jobs and economic development, so very much on the public agenda. (and not so much about steady-state economics).
– Cllr Smitheman was concerned with the advantages to deprived areas, even the Green Deal would be impossible to afford for very low-income households – Ms Parkes explained that the aim was to target specifically those areas and ECO subsidies would help with related costs.
– Cllr Hackett highlighted the need for new technologies to be developed, and a real need to review education urgently. Mr. Farr agreed that the labour force must be shaped to fit demand and curriculums need to change and adapt.
– Cllr Pritchart was wondering why the Green Deal should be of any interest when some retrofit opportunities were already offered for free and not taken on by as many people as there should be already. Ms. Parkes explained that the subsidies for these schemes were coming to an end in December 2012 and ECO would replace them. This would also concentrate on other retrofitting opportunities. However there is a need to change consumer thinking to make retrofitting a worthwhile investment.
Cllr Walters’ concerns were also regarding understanding and presenting the Green Deal to his constituents as well as making sure the curriculum could be adapted to make green options available. To which not only will the GM leaders be introduced to and engaged with the Green Deal before it is up and running, but also local schools will be influenced to upgrade their curriculum, their options and the advice offered on opportunities and apprenticeship.
A councillor (I wish I had taken his name down!) [UPDATE: It was Cllr Karney], bravely in my opinion, commented on a need to review work ethics and challenge the current economic model in order to re-distribute the work equitably. His view was that there was enough work already in GM for everyone, and that with between 1 person working very long hours and another looking for a job there was employment for two if it was shared.
A member of the public also raised the question of the definition of a green job – after all in some quarters nuclear industry was branded as “green”- but nuclear is thankfully not included in the green definition for GM.
Others highlighted the need to develop new skills, influence the curriculum and future options in schools, and to highlight local benefit to green attitudes. The question of the timescale and response to demand was raised, and also the possibility to develop manufacturing of green products in order to keep procurement local. Concerns over the negative precedent created by the demise of the PV industry following the FIT changes were also discussed and the consensus was to make sure to develop and promote the green job market and emphasize its long-term credentials.
When the committee reconvened, our group’s above discussions were condensed into 3 recommendations ( to broaden the definition of a green job & green-up all sectors, to be more creative and pro-active towards environmental jobs and not just responsive, to improve the curriculum and guidance for youngsters and engage with them with the support of local groups such as STEM) were agreed.
Of course recommendations are just a summary of the discussion, but with so many councillors attending the session I feel that everything else discussed at the workshop will be remembered and taken into account in future council discussions.
(1) One of the aims of James Farr’s department is to match college and apprenticeship training programs with current job demands and requirements. To that effect, New Economy are working towards a change in courses available so that youngsters are given useful vocational training. [ this to me was good news: if you need more surveyors, don’t train more hairdressers!]
(2) The Green Deal’s pilot trial in GM will be launched in October 2012, with a £1.3bn pa ECO (Energy Company Obligation) subsidy. The initial aim within 3 years is to improve 15000 properties and create an estimated 1000 jobs. Cllr. Karney rightly remarked that this was too modest an aim, but as Ms. Parkes explained raising a £75 million loan or increasing local authority borrowing is not an option. 15000 houses corresponds to a 2.5 % take up of the scheme, any higher for this first step would be difficult to finance.